Shortly before his death in 1944, Wang Jingwei said to Lin Bosheng who was visiting at the Imperial University Hospital in Nagoya, that while his political thoughts had already been expressed through the many speeches and essays written during his lifetime, his true legacy and most heartfelt feelings were represented in his poetry, the collection of works known as Shuangzhaolou shicigao.
This is exactly what “poetry as the voice of the will” and “will is the reflection of the heart” (quotes from Shijing, The Book of Songs) mean. After Wang Jingwei’s death, due to various political reasons, his poetry has been largely forgotten, along with his sentiments.
Wang Jingwei photographed by daughter Wenxing in Hankou, February 26, 1938
Wang Jingwei came from an educated family. His uncle Wang Quan was one of the Yuedong Sanjia (Three Scholars of Guangdong), his older brother Wang Zhaorong had also composed many collections of poetry. Since childhood, Wang had received traditional training in literature and history. He wrote his first poem at age 14; when he participated in revolutionary activities in Japan, writing incisive essays was his way to promote his ideas of revolution as a means to save the country. While he was imprisoned for attempting to assassinate the Prince Regent at age 27, he won the reputation as a “Martyr of the Revolution” with “Impromptu verses upon my arrest.” From that time on, poetry became the truest expression of his heart.
Wang was a member of the revolutionary literary Nanshe Society. Using Manzhao as a pen name, he wrote the book Nanshe Shihua (Poetry of Nanshe.) The renown expert of Chinese Ancient Literature Ye Jiaying said, Wang Jingwei used his own life to write his poetry, and his own life to realize his poetry, and can therefore be called a true poet.
The high artistic quality of Wang Jingwei’s traditional poetry aside, without reading Wang’s poetry one cannot enter his inner world, and it would be impossible to understand his true ideas and beliefs.
Wang’s poetry collection, Shuangzhaolou shicigao, comprises four parts: Xiaoxiuji (A Little Rest) and Saoyeji (Brush Leaves) collections, Minguo sanshinian hou (After Minguo Year 30), and Buyi (Addendum.) Seyuan Shu’s translations of selected poems from Xiaoxiuji by Wang were published in Poems of Wang Ching-wei (London: Allen & Unwin, 1938) which remains the only published volume of Wang’s poems in the English language.